Chen Wenling


Wenling Chen was born in 1969 in Anxi, Fujian China.  He studied at the Xiamen Academy of Art and Design, and at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.  He is now living and working in Xiamen and Beijing as a professional artist.
Chen Wenling is recognized as one of the top ten contemporary sculptors in China today.
In the Chinese contemporary art circle, Chen Wenling  is indeed a rising star who quickly establishes his artistic outlook. With persistent diligence and  vigorous creativity, he presents the world of art with one series  of work after another. He also participates in various exhibitions and attracts the attention of many people. More importantly, due to the
consistency  within the developing logic of his art, his works  are characterised by a salient feature.  In  the  contemporary art, the  unity between the personality of conception and the personality of style is  at least the basic measurement of mature art. By this standard, Chen Wenling has constructed his own world of art.

Many a critic has pointed out that Chen’s art originates from the reality of "consumer society". It is so indeed. For artists in Chen’s generation, the consumer culture bought by the development of Chinese economy and the resulting material abundance exerts profound influence on them  both in terms of visual perception and cultural context.  The problem faced by them is how to find an appropriate way to express their perception of consumer culture deeply and insightfully, realising the delivery of conception and creation of image at the same time. Judging from his works of more than a decade, we are able to observe that Chen closely follows his own focal perception, explores and refines his artistic language along the way and strives to express a precise perception with a visual image. With the "consumer society" as his theme, he focuses all his effort to the specific topic of how to materialise the "image of desire" so that he is able to represent vividly the features of this social reality.
It could be said that Chen’s art is strongly neo-realistic. He sensitively perceives the hedonism growing in the society at the age of rapidly swelling consumerism.  An artistic language to express, reveal and criticise this worldly reality is what he seeks and he finally finds his channel of expression by resorting to the "biological being" common to both man and animal. His works first present man at the state of certain ecstasy and glee, exposing the true nature of material desire in an ultimately egoistic phase, which can also be regarded as an artistic magnification of scenes from the material life. In many of his works, he juxtaposes the features of man and animal in one sculpture, thus  depicts the situation when the demarcation between man and animal or human behaviours and animal behaviours disappears. In terms of the mental state of  sculptures, the expression on the face of a man is as simple and obsessed as an animal, whereas the animals are given  man-like mental states and desires. No matter man or animal, they all appear to be in a deviated state of mind, happy and stimulated. The juxtaposition of  "personification" and  "hypostatization" is a method acquired by Chen in his exploration of art. He adopts this method nonstop in his series of works so  that it multiplies and gains more value, forming a developing momentum propelled by a self-sufficient driving power within.
 
To a certain extent, Chen Wenling is an artist who believes in the power of sculpting. Unlike many of his peers who have a constant interest in changing the medium of their art, he insists on in-depth explorations of sculpting as a form of art. The most conspicuous feature of his art works  is the modelling of a sense of  "expansion". In his modelling  of man and animal, he utilises broad and solid body parts together with many elastic curves to enable the  abstract 
concept of "desire" to express itself through the volume of the sculpture, the texture of its skin and lines of its body, with a perceptible feeling that desire is spilling out from its inside. In his recent works, he tends to use  a single gigantic sculpture or the repetition of a single image to form a hallucinating scene where man and animal, flora and fauna, the details and  the whole are reduced to a blur, resulting in a pervasive and continuous atmosphere. It is powerfully 
illusive yet it is a refraction of the reality. In many cases, it is not a single and concrete image that Chen Wenling is trying to produce but rather a scene full of life and vitality created by the language of sculpture.
 
When an artist possesses  a  certain  distinctive feature in his formal language, the origin of such form often comes under question. This problem is not only applicable to Chen Wenling but also to Chinese contemporary art as a whole. To answer this question, we need to trace the source of both the artist’s conception as well as his artistic language.  According to his life experience, these two share the same source. His works are immensely allegorical, both the man and things are magnified embodiments of  "desire", however, city, where social and 
economical progress are mainly made, is not the only source of desire; customs from the countryside also contributes its share. Chen Wenling grew up in a  village in southern Fujian province, where local  folk custom is filled with supplications and dreams about wealth. With the rising living standard, material desires expand and enlarge into  a  social psychological trend and invokes new scenes of life. These environmental elements have a direct influence on Chen’s thoughts. Although he has no intention to depict these vivid scenes as a whole, he still has direct perceptions of them. What he can do is to represent the sense of desire, the expression of which makes real situations specific and alive. In this sense, his language of art is not a simple appropriation from existing ones in the history of art, but a touch of life he 
himself has experienced. Certainly, powerful scenes and visual modelling in the folk culture also inspire him in the process. To a certain extent,  formal languages like the exaggerated modelling and round body parts in Chen’s work  are correlated with the traditions of southern Fujian folk art. Sensitively, Chen captures certain visual elements from life and  pushes them to the extremes in his work. 
Chen Wenling  has staged many exhibitions, but what sets this one apart is that besides his latest sculptures, the scenes he videoed at a temple faire when he returned to his home town is also on display. Amid the heated folk activities, we are able to see the local source of Chen’s art clearly. The overwhelming scenes of sacrifice, which have somehow turned into a visual miracle, demonstrate the power of materials. These two works, video documentation and his sculptures is clearly related either in content or in form, which also reveals the final answer to the riddle of Chen’s recent artistic creation. In this sense, the art of Chen Wenling is indeed an art with "well grounded form".





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